About DME


The Duke Med Elementary Mission

Medical student Hannibal Person and Forest View third graders

Duke Med Elementary’s mission is to teach local elementary students how to make healthy lifestyle choices through science-based educational programs focused on the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, exercise, and nutrition. The ultimate goal is to reduce childhood obesity while  nurturing interest in the health sciences and the pursuit of higher education. Of course, we want it all to be fun!

The History of Duke Med Elementary

Navid Pourtaheri and local elementary school learners!

The Duke Med Elementary program was founded at the Duke University School of Medicine in the 2008-2009 academic year by a first year medical student, Navid Pourtaheri. Realizing that childhood obesity was a growing problem in Durham and that the human body was being taught to local third grade students, Navid began lunch-based field trips as a means for local 3rd grade students to spend a day talking about the human body with medical students in a fun and exciting way, and to discuss personal health choices. The natural draw of the excited and curious third graders toward the recently acquired medical knowledge of the medical students showcased the start of a great partnership. A formal curriculum for the field trips was then developed to focus on key subjects that would allow the elementary school students a way to explore their bodies through science and make informed healthy choices on their own. The third grade field trips now feature two visits focused on (1) cardiovascular anatomy, health, and exercise, and (2) gastrointestinal anatomy, health, and nutrition.

Navid Pourtaheri and Melodi Javid, Albert Schweitzer Fellowship recipients 2010

In 2010, Navid Pourtaheri recuited another Duke medical student Melodi Javid as a partner to help expand the program. Receiving the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, they develop weekend conferences to build on what the students learned in the third grade. Fourth and fifth graders are now invited back to Duke Medical School to engage in Saturday conferences. By the end of the day the kids learn to read graphs and tables, perform critical thinking, work as a group, and collect data. The program has been a huge success with the elementary schools, the medical student volunteers, and the community as documented in several school and city news articles published over the years.

2016-2017 Officers:

Community Liaison: Aman Bali

Volunteer Coordinator: Nicole Dalal

Program Researcher: Kirsten Simmons

President: Jenna Frush

Treasurer: Chizoba Nwankwo

Curriculum Coordinators: Ashley Choi and Chris Gallo